Episode 5 - "Walibi Holland Went A Little Heavy On The Grafitti", or, "The Wilderness Apparently Loves Instagram Influencers"
Our next park in the Netherlands was Walibi Holland!
For those of you that don't know, Walibi Holland has been through a lot in the past twenty years. They've been bought, sold, invested in... Today, they're owned by the same people that run Parc Asterix in France, but at one time they were a Six Flags park! So, from now on, I like to consider Walibi Holland to be what a Six Flags park would be if it were actually good.
We again met up with some tag-alongs and made our way to the entrance.
M for mini, or W for wumbo?
Walibi Holland's main street isn't like your typical theme park main street. It's a mish-mash of old-style city buildings plastered with bright colors, graffiti, and other stuff that would normally be found in a city but from completely different time periods.
Breathe less? Breathless? What are they getting at here?
Our first ride session of the morning was Goliath. I've always thought that early-2000s Intamin is the best Intamin, so I was really excited for Goliath, and it certainly didn't disappoint.
This photo was actually from later in the day, but it's one of the only photos I have from this side, so, enjoy Goldberg and Ryan's facial expressions.
The first big hill and the Stengel dive are awesome. The spirals are intense without inducing greyouts. The return run of bunny hills is absolutely incredible. The trains are open and airy, kind of like you're flying. It's not my number one steel coaster (hint hint), but I really can't find anything bad to say about it after more than five rides. It's so consistent and should not be overshadowed by its new hotness cousin on the other side of the park.
Speaking of the new hotness cousin...
How about a jolt of Rocky Mountain to start your day? Side effects include increased adrenaline and an urge to book a flight to Idaho. Ask your doctor if RMC is right for you.
We also had a morning ride session on Untamed! But since we were scheduled for an evening ride session as well, it's not worth talking about right this second. Let's move onto our third ride of the morning, Lost Gravity!
It's okay, I don't know how to land a helicopter sideways either.
Lost Gravity is probably the wackiest roller coaster I've ever ridden. The theming is completely absurd. The layout is so haphazard, with a yank-you-over twisting drop and a whole bunch of elements that look like they're in the wrong order but in reality flow so well together. The airtime is particularly aggressive and kind of suddenly yanks you out of your seat each time. It was very good.
Awesome twisted multi-color mess of track! And two-train-on-the-circuit operation! Most excellent!
I generally stuck to the front row, but on my last ride I decided to get over my fears and try the back winged seat. Having no floor to rest my feet on and getting yanked over that drop was probably one of the most surreal experiences I've had on a roller coaster. It's so sudden, and so scary, and I loved it, and I'm never doing it again except I probably will because it's that incredible. Contradictions, how do they work?!?
Coaster, kebab, shipping containers, radio antennae, plastic yard furniture, waffles, pofferjes, and trees. Trust me, it all works well together!
After our Lost Gravity session we made our way back to the front of the park to receive our Fast Lane passes. We split off into groups of six-ish. I went off with a group with a few too many Andrews.
The first stop of the Andrews group was close by - Xpress!
Xpress is, for those that don't know, a clone of Rock n' Roller Coaster. It has the same sea serpent roll, the same boring sweeping turns, and the same "almost airtime" at the end. However, it's also outdoors, so you can see everything!
What makes Xpress interesting, though, is its queue. Xpress is themed to a haunted subway / metro train and platform, and with a haunted theme comes an actual haunt maze. Xpress' queue features a foreboding atmosphere, dark corridors, creepy props and triggered jumpscares. It's a really cool experience and you wouldn't know it based on the fact that Xpress' entrance totally fits in with the garish aesthetic of the city-like main street area.
Unfortunately, however, that immersion is broken as soon as the doors open for you to board, as you're faced with a bubbly, shiny mid-2000s Vekoma train. Still, the ride is fun and worth a spin for that queue haunt alone.
The Andrews group continued onward, stopping at pretty much every thrilling flat ride along the way, which this particular Andrew would then skip. One of these was Spinning Vibe, a rare park-built example of a Huss Magic, normally found on the European fair circuit.
Well, yeah, Chris, if I would have known I'd be on camera I would have made that facial expression too.
Over here, we also took a spin on Speed of Sound, the park's themed, EDM-pumping Vekoma Boomerang. It was fine.
We then made our way over to Drako, the park's kids' coaster, taking a spin on Crazy River, the park's forward-backward double-dip log flume along the way. We also caught a glimpse of Larry going into some sort of virtual reality experience called NeuroGen. Remember that, it will be important later.
The Andrews group also ran into some of the other groups and they all also took a spin on Tomahawk, the park's Frisbee.
Looks like a frisbee, sounds like a frisbee, smells like a frisbee, but it isn't one.
But unlike the Tomahawk that U.S. Six Flags fans would know about, this Tomahawk is actually a fake! It's not a Huss Frisbee, but actually one made by SBF. It didn't get anywhere near as high as the real Frisbee we'd see the next day on the trip, nor did it spin as much. I skipped it thinking it was a Huss initially but it looked so tame that I might have actually enjoyed it.
In the early afternoon, we all headed back toward the front together for lunch. I had a sandwich that I thought was fish, but it really ended up being breaded cheese. I was confused for the rest of the day.
More importantly though - after lunch we were given one of the coolest opportunities on the trip - a backstage tour. However, it wasn't just a backstage tour of one attraction - they took us behind the scenes of three. We got to see and take photos of Xpress, Goliath, and Untamed, in areas that are not normally accessible to the public.
WARNING to casual readers! Do not take any photos during behind the scenes tours without prior permission and / or an escort! Not only is it against Theme Park Review forum rules, it's also dangerous and illegal!
Whoa, check out Steven Tyler's hat!
Comin' at yah!
Awesome twisted airtime hill!
Still the world's only Stengel dive, according to the RCDB.
The master at work. Master of what, well, we're still not sure.
Coming out of probably the wackiest inversion you'll ever experience.
No one expects the Spanish Inq... I mean this heartline roll at the end.
Do not try this it home. Seriously. Get permission first.
After our behind-the-scenes tour, the Andrews group wanted to do some more rides. Unfortunately, "more rides" also included this monstrosity.
It's Condor, the genesis of the Suspended Looping Coaster. Well, I supposed if T3 is allowed to continue to exist, Condor gets the "historical" label...
I skipped Condor. In the years that I've been involved in the theme park scene my attitude has shifted. I no longer care about getting every coaster credit in a park, and I have no desire to gain any "street cred" for having ridden one of the worst-ranked roller coasters in the world and survived. Good? Good.
Apparently it will finally be getting those nicer Vekoma vest harnesses. Maybe I'll not ride it the next time I go. Yeah, not riding it still sounds like a good idea.
As the park got closer to closing I found the Alveys in the Wilderness area and we kind of waited around for everyone to show up. Eventually Larry and his group found us, and Larry proceeded to recount his experience in the NeuroGen virtual reality attraction in a way that left everyone confused, amused, and dumbfounded all at the same time. It was probably the most entertaining story I've ever been told in my life, so good on you there, Larry!
So - finally - let's talk about Untamed.
Another spectacular first drop.
For years and years I was a skeptic of Rocky Mountain's coasters. They looked really weird, I wasn't a fan of rolls and loops on a wooden coaster, I wasn't a fan of the "RMC fanboys" singing their praises... I much preferred Intamin's approach to the wooden coaster, and to be honest, I still do. But last year I went to Six Flags Over Georgia for some spins on Twisted Cyclone, and after that, I got it. I understood why people love Rocky Mountain coasters. They're really that good. Twisted Cyclone ended up very high on my list.
This is seriously one of the best turnarounds I've ever experienced on a coaster, and you don't even realize it.
Untamed, though, was on another level. If there's any steel coaster that reminds of Phoenix, my number one roller coaster, Untamed is it. Hill after hill of glorious airtime, a height and length that's significant but not scary or imposing, a wonderful double-up double-down... Untamed is absolutely my kind of coaster. The airtime is relentless, and the inversions are smoothly integrated into the ride's layout. Add in theming (minus the crappy Instagram stuff), station architecture, and a color scheme that I enjoy...
...and Untamed is now my number one steel coaster.
I think that it's literally impossible for any person to come off Untamed without a smile on their face, unless the ride made them physically sick. It is just so, so, SO much fun. It doesn't have to impress anyone with a record-braking height, or a crazy brand-new acrobatic maneuver (though it does have one). There is nothing in particular that stands out about Untamed's ride experience because it ALL stands out. It was the first roller coaster of the trip that I was truly disappointed that I couldn't ride anymore because we were leaving. I'm certainly looking forward to Iron Gwazi next year, but it's going to take a lot to topple Untamed from the top of my steel coasters list.
Steel Vengeance is probably objectively better. In fact, a lot of coasters are probably better. But all the stuff that I like about it, plus just how much stupid fun it is, seals it for me.
And the queue is even lovely, too!
There's only one thing that I don't like about Untamed, and it has more do do with me than the ride itself. During our evening ride time and filming session, I got to ride nine times in a row, and that was amazing. But what wasn't amazing is that my small, skinny figure meant that the seat belt buckle rested on my right thigh. I left the park and a few days later I had a huge bruise on my thigh from the buckle being forced into it during every ride. I guess that's just a testament to how much airtime Untamed really has!
Why, yes, I do LOVE this coaster. Do I really have to post to Instagram about it?
That's a minor nitpick though. I would ride Untamed over and over again despite that flaw. It's really that good. If you're looking to ride your first Rocky Mountain coaster in Europe or in even in general, look no further. You can keep your Steel Vengeance, Zadra, and the like. I will gladly ride this instead.
And...that was it from Walibi Holland!
Random thoughts and musings:
- Like I said before, this was probably the nicest "corporate amusement park" I've ever been to. Sure, stuff looks cheap, and some of the operators are younger people on part-time jobs, but nothing made me go, "ugh" like I did the last time I visited Six Flags Over Georgia. It was all, at the very least, decent.
- The park's management gave each of us little care packages with Untamed swag and sunglasses. More importantly though, they wrote out individual greetings for every single person. It was nice to see that they cared so much about giving us a good time.
- I caught a glimpse of the Condor charity guy while I was waiting for the others to take their ride. What an endurance match.
- The one constant throughout the park's mish-mash of theming was graffiti. It was everywhere, even on scenic elements that would have otherwise seemed normal (like the Merlin's Magic Castle ride). Some people didn't like it. I thought it was fine, but maybe a little overdone.
- The park had an interesting selection of flat rides. In addition to the others mentioned, they had a particularly wet Top Spin, a madhouse, and a unique type of Skycoaster, to name a few.
- Goliath is blue and black now, but there are plenty of reminders of its former life as being bright green. All of the lap bars are the same purple they used to be. You can also tell that they don't replace all of the lap bar foam pieces at once, as a lot of the lap bar pads are still their original bright green. This trivia is useless and shouldn't affect your enjoyment of Goliath at all, but I have a tendency to notice the stupid stuff like that.
- The Untamed station platform might be one of my favorite pieces of architecture in an amusement park, and yet, I didn't even get any photos of the inside! What was I thinking?!?
Next time: Well, this is a nice construction site... Oh wait, it's Drievliet!